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Learn about the 21 days theory and change your life

Going on a diet, paying late bills, getting over the end of a relationship, saving money: what these things have in common is that, to accomplish all of them, it takes a good dose of willpower. However, once we started, we realized that none of them were that hard to achieve. This difficulty we face to kick-start large projects is explained by the “21 days theory”, have you heard of it?

The theory was formulated by the American plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz in the mid-1960s. The doctor observed that his patients took an average of 21 days to begin to notice the benefits and changes after a surgical procedure. This happened because, as time passed, the patients vibrated positively about the results of the surgery, imagining the benefits of the treatment and, therefore, feeling more optimistic and motivated.

According to studies carried out by Maltz, this theory applies to the most different areas of human life. In other words, after a period of 21 days, it becomes easier to remain steadfast in the purpose made, whatever it may have been.

“When we look at change as something definitive, permanent, it can seem daunting. Enough to stop us from starting. However, if you view the change as temporary, making a deal with yourself that after the 21-day period you can go back to where you were before if you want, the task can become easier. In practice, the effort is exactly the same, but the chances of you sabotaging yourself are smaller”, says psychologist Margareth Alves.

21 days is the time it takes the brain to interpret a new habit as an established pattern and make it automatic. In practice, this means that you will no longer need to think to act in a certain way, because your body will already be on “autopilot”, performing the task naturally and requiring less personal effort.

applying the theory

Make a short list of habits you would like to change in your life. Losing weight, quitting smoking, cutting down on soda consumption, saving money for a down payment on your own home or anything else. The important thing is to put those behaviors that you want to eliminate at the tip of the pencil. When you’re done, choose what you find most difficult and start with that. Don’t try to apply the theory to all bad habits at once. Slow and always.

Be aware that abstinence requires effort and will certainly not be easily overcome. When you think about giving up, remember the goal you want to achieve and the positive results it would have in your life.

In the same way that it works to eliminate bad habits, the 21 days theory also helps to stimulate behaviors that, although positive, you still don’t practice: start exercising, reading, meditating, doing volunteer work, learning to play an instrument, anyway, any kind of cool habit that you want to include in your routine.

Agree with yourself that you will do a certain thing for at least half an hour every day for 21 days. Most likely, by the end of the period, the custom will be so natural that you won’t understand how you lived so many years without it.

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